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2013 NFL DRAFT: SENIOR BOWL PRIMER

Most of the top senior prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft have been in Mobile, Alabama all week showing off for NFL front offices and scouts at the annual Senior Bowl, the preeminent post-season pre-draft prospect all-star game. There are a number of storylines to follow at the event this week with the culmination happening Saturday as the North squad takes on the South team in an extremely important game for the prospects involved. Futures and draft stocks are on the line and a whole lot of money is there for the making or losing. The Senior Bowl goes down Saturday at 4 pm EST on the NFL Network.

1.  The Quarterback Competition

The biggest storyline of the week has been the ongoing competition between the six quarterbacks at the event. All six came to town as part of the second tier of quarterbacks in the draft class behind West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Matt Barkley of USC, but with both of them not at the event it’s given this group a chance with all eyes watching to elevate their stock and even surpass Smith and Barkley on some draft boards. While none of the quarterbacks blew scouts away this week in practice all six showed off their strengths and weaknesses with Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones emerging as the top guys at the event, although they didn’t impress everyone as scouting reports differ around the league. Glennon showed off the strongest arm of the group and has been described as the most complete of the six by ESPN’s Todd McShay, although he was much taller (6’6 ¾”) than expected and looked stiff and robotic at times. Wilson has also drawn good reviews as the top quarterback at the event and was described by NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang as having the best combination of size, arm talent, toughness and experience. Every year quarterbacks start moving up draft boards around this time and both Glennon and Wilson seem to be doing just that as they are starting to be talked about as real first round possibilities. Landry Jones has also elevated his stock with a good week of practice and looks like he might have potentially secured a spot in the second round. EJ Manuel, Ryan Nassib and Zac Dysert didn’t show nearly as well and will probably be mid-round selections.

2.  First Round Left Tackles

Two of the most impressive prospects at the Senior Bowl this week have been a pair of left tackles in Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. Fisher has been this year’s unknown small-school prospect being talked about as a first round talent, but after an exceptional performance all week long competing against his North squad teammates (a more talented group of pass-rushers than the South Team) he won’t be an unknown anymore and appears to have locked down a potential spot in the top fifteen of the draft as the second highest-rated left tackle behind Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M. Lane Johnson looks to be a first rounder now after this week, but that could depend on his performance Saturday when he has to face the more talented pass-rushers from the North Team like Datone Jones. Either way he has helped his stock immensely, while other offensive tackles like Oday Aboushi and Justin Pugh struggled and discussions about moving them inside to guard are now being had.

3.  Dominant Nose Tackles

Georgia’s John Jenkins cemented his place as a first rounder this week with an absolutely dominant performance in practice. He blew everyone away with his mammoth size at the weigh-ins and then continued to do so on the field by displaying his rare athleticism. He mauled everyone that stepped in front of him and handled double-teams with ease. He did seem to get winded as the practices wore on, so the scouts will definitely be watching for how we plays late in the game on Saturday. North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams was a bit of a forgotten man with such a talented defensive line class this year, but he too was dominant during the week and showed off impressive athleticism and instincts as did Kawann Short of Purdue. Williams and Short could sneak into the late first round, but appear to be second round locks now.

4.  Impressive Pass-Rushers

UCLA’s Datone Jones appears to have made some money this week. He was awesome in practice often taking on the top offensive tackle at the event in Eric Fisher and looks to have completely shed the tweener label he came to Mobile with by showing he can be an effective 4-3 edge rusher. He displayed a non-stop motor and overwhelmed offensive linemen with his strength and power. Texas pass-rusher Alex Okafor was also good this week and most likely secured his spot in the second round. He doesn’t appear to be a star, but does look like he could be a solid, productive starter for years to come.

5.  Raw Athletes Struggle

BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and Margus Hunt of SMU came to the Senior Bowl as two of the guys scouts were most looking forward to watching. Both are exceptional athletes with rare athletic abilities, but are still raw football players after only playing the sport for a few years. They were both two of the biggest disappointments so far this week as they struggled in drills and failed to flash the potential scouts wanted to see often enough. They all love Hunt’s size and length, but his lack of a burst off the snap has really stood out. Saturday is the most important day for these two if they want to hold on to their lofty draft stocks, especially Ansah.

6.  Emerging Cornerbacks

Washington’s Desmond Trufant may have made as much money as any prospect this week with his performance in practice. The younger brother of pros Marcus and Isaiah showed off tremendous skills as a potential shut-down corner and was clearly the best at the event at his position. He was excellent in matching the wide receivers in Mobile stride for stride and is now being talked about as a possible first round pick. Having Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks out of the event with an injury has only helped Trufant with more eyes on him. California’s Marc Anthony and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden have also helped their stock this week as did a pair of FCS prospects in William & Mary’s B.W. Webb and SE Louisiana’s Robert Alford.

7.  Big Play Wide Receivers

A number of wide receivers stood out this week and improved their draft stock with good performances. Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton and Terrance Williams of Baylor were the best of the bunch. Wheaton displayed fantastic speed and quickness often separating from defensive backs. He also showed off some strong hands and an ability to make catches in traffic and tight windows. He shown great all-around skills and has moved himself into the top group with the likes of Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Terrance Williams. Speaking of Williams, he displayed better than expected speed and quickness to go with his terrific hands and showed scouts that he is a legit big-time downfield threat. Wheaton and Williams weren’t the only wide outs who looked good this week as Marquise Goodwin (Texas), Quinton Patton (LaTech) and Tavarres King (Georgia) put in great performances.

8.  Denard Robinson’s Transition to WR

Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s transition to wide receiver has been one of the main ongoing storylines during this year’s draft process and it hasn’t gone well. Robinson’s playmaking ability as a quarterback has been slow to translate to the wide receiver position. He still looks good in the open field, but has struggled to run routes and catch the ball even with lowered expectations from scouts. A right elbow injury has not helped his case. He came to the event as a potential mid-round selection, but unless he plays well on Saturday he appears to have fallen into the last couple rounds and may even go undrafted. It has not been a good week for him.

9.  Those Who Aren’t Here

Every year a certain number of prospects decide to skip the event for one reason or another and unless it’s due to injury it ticks front offices and scouts off to no end. This year’s group has been especially annoying as seven of the eight notable prospects not at the event could be first round picks. Geno Smith has received the most heat for not showing up. As the top rated quarterback, but one with a lot still to prove, scouts wanted to see him here this week, especially after a dreadful performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. While his stock hasn’t suffered that much, it was a fantastic opportunity for him to show he’s worthy of a high draft pick, even the first overall spot to the QB-needy Chiefs. Instead other quarterbacks like Mike Glennon and Tyler Wilson have gained on him and the pressure to perform at the Combine next month will be extremely high. Others that have not pleased scouts with the absence include Star Lotulelei, Manti Te’o, Kenny Vaccaro, Jonathon Cooper, Chance Warmack and Tavon Austin, who really ticked scouts off by pulling out within 72 hours of the event. Montee Ball also skipped the event, but hasn’t received the wrath of scouts as he has very little to prove after over 1000 touches in his four year career at Wisconsin. As a non-first round prospect there was no need for him to take any more hits. Notable injury absences include Matt Barkley, Johnthan Banks, Tyler Eifert, Dion Jordan and Jesse Williams.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (JAN.7)

The BCS National Championship should be a good one this year with traditional college football powers Alabama and Notre Dame playing for the title. The Crimson Tide are looking to cement their legacy as a college football dynasty with their third National Championship in the last four years, while the Irish are looking to be back on top of the college football world with their first title since 1988. As they do every year, Alabama will have a number of NFL prospects on display for front offices, scouts and fans to see with up to 12 possible draft choices led by the likes of Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and Jesse Williams. The Irish will counter with a decent class of their own featuring potential first round picks Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert. This game is definitely one to watch.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-1)

Ever since Nick Saban took over the Alabama football program, the Crimson Tide have continually sent fantastic draft classes to the NFL, often laden with elite first round prospects.  This year is no different as the Crimson Tide boasts another stacked group of draft-eligible players featuring multiple top-100 prospects including first-round locks CB Dee Milliner (Jr) and OG Chance Warmack (Sr). Milliner is far and away the top rated cornerback for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the very top prospects as well. He was incredible and nearly unbeatable for the Tide this year in amassing 20 passes defended, 18 pass break-ups, 2 picks, 51 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He’s a shutdown cover corner with the ability to close down the outside in run support. He possesses the size, speed and strength to match elite wide receivers, although his ball skills could still use some work to turn some of those pass break-ups into turnovers. There’s no doubt he will be the first corner selected in the draft and could very well crack the top ten picks. Warmack is the best prospect on Alabama’s incredibly talented offensive line that will send three players to the NFL draft. He’s a mammoth wrecking machine that may be the most dominant guard prospect in a long time. He mauls defenders when run-blocking and is just about as good in pass-protection. He’s extremely light on his feet for a man his size which allows him to get to the second-level when run-blocking and continue to open up massive running lanes for his ball-carrier. He’s one of the very best prospects in the entire draft and should be a first round pick, but because of the lower value placed on his position he could fall into the later portion of the round much the same way Stanford’s highly-rated David DeCastro did in last year’s draft. Joining Warmack in the draft from Alabama’s All-American offensive line is RT D.J. Fluker (rJr) and OL Barrett Jones (rSr). Like Warmack, Fluker is a dominant run-blocker with great size and power that possesses the ability to destroy opposing defensive linemen and linebackers.  Some polishing is still needed in his game, but he is one of the best right tackle prospects just behind Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and should be selected on Day 2. Jones is the leader of the Crimson Tide line and arguably the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. Throughout his college career, Jones has displayed the ability to play a high level at left tackle (2011 Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top offensive lineman), center (2012 Rimington Award winner as the nation’s top center) and at guard where he played his first two seasons and was named to 2010 AP All-American Third-Team. He’s an intelligent, max-effort player with fantastic fundamentals and excellent leadership. He should have a long, productive NFL career and could come off the board in the third round. It wouldn’t be an Alabama draft class without a dominant defensive lineman or top running back. As a former Australian rugby player, DT Jesse Williams (Sr) is a highly interesting prospect that possesses intriguing athletic ability and excellent versatility. He’s a huge defender with a low center of gravity and absolutely incredible strength (600lb. bench press). He is impossible to stop at the point of attack and has the power to dominate double-teams, while still possessing the speed to play on the outside and rush the passer. He can be used at every position on the defensive line in multiple schemes. As good as he is already he’s still improving at a rapid pace after only picking up football at the age of 15 and has a very high ceiling. He could be taken anywhere from the mid-first round to as late as the early third, but should come off the board somewhere in between. He could easily be one of the steals of the draft. RB Eddie Lacy (rJr) is the next in the long line of talented running backs to come out of Alabama. He’s a well-built power back with the ability to bulldoze his way through the middle while keeping his legs moving and breaking tackles. He’s a reliable ball-handler and has the potential to be a feature back on first and second downs in the NFL. He’s arguably the top draft-eligible running back for the 2013 NFL Draft with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore injured and likely out of action for a while. He could be taken as high as the late second/early third round. Alabama also has a solid group of mid to late round prospects that includes SS Robert Lester (Sr), ILB Nico Johnson (Sr) and TE Michael Williams (rSr). All three should be reliable contributors at the next level and will be picked on Day 3. Late round hopefuls for Alabama include DE Quinton Dial, DE Damion Square and S Carson Tinker. The Crimson Tide could have actually had an even more impressive draft class this year if ILB C.J. Mosley (Jr) and QB A.J. McCarron (rJr) hadn’t already announced that they would be returning to school for their final season of eligibility. While McCarron was probably going to be just another mid-round prospect, Mosley was being talked about as a potential late first round pick and the second-rated inside linebacker behind Te’o.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (12-0)

While Notre Dame doesn’t have near the same size or level of draft class as Alabama, they still have a number of solid prospects led by first round picks ILB Manti Te’o (Sr) and TE Tyler Eifert (rJr). After surprising everyone last year by choosing to return for his senior season and turning down what looked to be a for-sure spot in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Manti Te’o looks to have made the right decision after leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season, a spot in the National Championship, a Heisman nomination and an even higher draft ranking. It’s not very often that things work out like that for a prospect when he chooses to return to school and pass on an almost guaranteed spot in the first round (just ask Matt Barkley), but Te’o’s magical season was one for the ages. The Heisman finalist was amazing this season in leading the Irish defense to a spot among the best in the sport. He racked up 103 tackles, his third straight season with 100+ tackles and was among the leaders in interceptions with seven, while adding a multitude of national awards and honors to his trophy case. Te’o is as complete a linebacker as you’ll find. He plays every down and is just as good in defending the pass as he is the run. He plays with great instincts, intensity and an extremely high football I.Q. He attacks the line of scrimmage and ball-carrier with quickness and power and possesses the ability to cover sideline to sideline never leaving him out of position. It would be a major surprise if he’s not selected among the top ten in the 2013 NFL Draft. Tyler Eifert is ranked on most draft boards as the top tight end for the 2013 NFL Draft and a possible late first round draft choice. He’s an athletic, pass-catching tight end with good speed and reliable hands. He’s able to create mismatches in the secondary and dominate defensive backs using his superior size and strength, while fearlessly navigating the middle of the field. He’s still developing as a blocker, but the 2012 Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end shouldn’t last past the early second round. After Te’o and Efiert, the Irish have a group of potential mid to late round prospects that includes DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (rSr), OC/OG Braxston Cave (rSr), RB Theo Riddick (Sr), FS Zeke Motta (Sr) and RB Cierre Wood (rJr). Lewis-Moore is a versatile defensive lineman that can be used in multiple schemes and could be selected as high as the late third round. Late-round hopefuls include OC/OG Mike Golic Jr., S Jamoris Slaughter and WR John Goodman.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 6 (JAN.4-JAN.6)

College Bowl season is finally winding down with just three games left to be played before the BCS National Championship on Monday. The Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and Oklahoma is the last big bowl matchup of the season and is a definite must-watch for NFL front offices, scouts and fans as it features more potential draft picks than any other game including the National Championship. There are at least eleven players that are for-sure 2013 NFL Draft picks (should they all the underclassmen choose to declare early) at the moment and a number of others that could find a spot in one of the later rounds. A number of top prospects will be on the field including Luke Joeckel, who could be the first overall pick and Damontre Moore, a likely top ten selection.

AT&T COTTON BOWL, JANUARY 4/2013

Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

In the last great matchup of the college football season before Alabama and Notre Dame meet for the National Championship, the Aggies and Sooners will put on a showcase of top talent for NFL scouts with nine potential top-100 prospects and a boatload of others in action. Texas A&M has the far superior draft class led by LT Luke Joeckel (Jr), DE/OLB Damontre Moore (Jr) and RT Jake Matthews (Jr), who are all projected to be first round picks in April. Joeckel is arguably the top prospect in the entire draft and one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick currently owned by the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s as talented a left prospect as there has ever been to enter the draft. He’s a great athlete with prototype NFL size and possesses elite fundamentals and technique. He has the agility and footwork to match speed-rushers and the strength to out-muscle bull-rushers. He plays with intelligence and poise well past his years, probably because he’s been a starting since he stepped on to campus and will be an immediate starter in the NFL as well on either side of the line. The Chiefs could use a new blindside protector for whoever their signal-caller might be next season and without a consensus elite quarterback in the draft Joeckel could be the first player selected. Damontre Moore might top the list of highest risers among prospects this season. After adequately replacing Von Miller in 2011, Moore exploded this season taking his game to another level leading the Aggies in tackles (80), sacks (12.5), QB hurries (8) and tackles for loss (20) in becoming one of the top pass-rushers and defenders in the country. He’s an explosive pass-rusher that can beat linemen on the outside with his terrific speed or blast right through them using his strength and power. He’s able to quickly close in on the ball-carrier before dragging him to the ground while still displaying the awareness to try and rip the ball loose (8 career forced fumbles). He’s drawing comparisons to Miller as a hybrid defender that can play in any defensive scheme whether standing up or with his hand in the ground. He’s a top ten prospect along with other elite pass-rushers Jarvis Jones and Bjoern Werner. Son of former NFL standout Bruce Matthews, Jake has lived up to the considerable hype that has always surrounded him and combined with Joeckel at Texas A&M to form the best offensive tackle tandem in college football. While he’s not as athletic as Joeckel or the same level of pass-protector, he’s just as skilled in most aspects and is actually the better and more dominant run blocker of the two. He would’ve have had a higher draft grade if he had the chance to play left tackle and wasn’t stuck on the right side, but he has shown enough potential so for in his career that he could be one in the future. He should come off the board in the mid to late first round or early part of Day 2. Texas A&M also has a trio of possible mid-round picks in OLB Sean Porter (Sr), WR Ryan Swope (rSr) and RB Christine Michael (Sr). Porter is another talented, hybrid Aggies defender. He’s a good pass-rusher, but really excels in stopping the run and dropping into pass coverage. He’s fantastic at reading the play and pursuing ball-carriers and should be a highly effective starting NFL linebacker. Swope isn’t an elite athlete, but is a reliable receiver with excellent hands and route-running ability. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level. Michael is a tough, well-built running back with a number of high level skills that scouts look for in a featured ball-carrier, but has major durability issues after constantly battling injuries throughout his collegiate career. Porter could be taken in the third round, while Swope and Michael are more likely to be selected on Day 3 of the draft. Possible late round draft picks for the Aggies include WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (Sr), CB Dustin Harris (Sr) and DT Spencer Nealy (Sr). While the Sooners have a large draft class this year, they don’t possess the kind of elite prospects they usually do with just one possible late first round pick. OT Lane Johnson (Sr) is their top prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft and one of the top offensive tackles available. He’s a great athlete that certainly looks the part with prototypical NFL size and length, but is still a slight work in progress after starting just two seasons at tackle, one on the right side in 2011 and then on the left side this past year after playing quarterback, tight end and defensive end in previous years. He is a fantastic pass blocker and could be a late first/early second round pick. Following Johnson is a group of potential mid-round picks in QB Landry Jones (rSr), FS Tony Jefferson (Jr), WR Kenny Stills (Jr) and FB Trey Millard (Jr). Once thought to be the next elite first round quarterback for the Sooners, Landry Jones has been a major disappointment the last few seasons despite breaking multiple school and conference records in his career, although a lot of that has to do with the fact he’s been the starting for four years. He possesses the size and arm strength to be an NFL starter, but still shows very questionable decision-making, erratic accuracy and poor footwork. He has some work to do in his development, but a fresh start somewhere else (not that Oklahoma is a bad environment) with some new eyes on him could do wonders for his future as an NFL quarterback. Jefferson is a tough, versatile safety that can line up in the box to stop the run or rush the passer and drop into coverage and play “centerfield.” Despite playing on a bum ankle this season he still led the Sooners with 113 tackles and is considered one of the top safety prospects available for the draft. Stills is a smaller, playmaking wide receiver with good speed and smooth route-running ability. There are some concerns about his consistency and focus to make the easy catches and a couple of off-the-field red flags. He looks like a slot receiver at the next level, but can contribute with the big, acrobatic play from time to time. Jones and Jefferson are likely third round picks, while Stills probably has to wait until the early portion of Day 3. It’s not often a fullback is considered a possible early entrant into the draft, but Millard is an exceptional talent and the highest rated player at the position even earning consideration as a top-120 prospect. He probably returns to school for another season, but it should be interesting to see if and where he is selected if he does indeed declare early for the 2013 NFL Draft. Late round hopefuls for Oklahoma include CB Damontre Hurst (Sr), DT Stacy McGee (rSr), DT Jamar McFarland (Sr), DT David King (rSr) and WR Justin Brown (Sr).

BBVA COMPASS BOWL, JANUARY 5/2013

Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6) vs. Mississippi Rebels (6-6)

Not much to watch in terms of NFL prospects between Pittsburgh and Mississippi. The only noteworthy prospect taking part is Panthers RB Ray Graham (Sr). He’s a smaller, elusive running back with terrific quickness and good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Graham successfully returned to action this season from a torn ACL in 2011 and showed that he was healthy, although front offices will have an eye on his medical report at the Scouting Combine. He’s a situational back at the next level and could be a fifth round pick. Likely undrafted free agents for Pittsburgh include OC Ryan Turnley (rSr) and OG Chris Jacobson (rSr). Mississippi does have one potential prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft in FS Charles Sawyer (rJr). He sent in paperwork to the NFL Advisory Committee to find out his draft grade and what round he might be selected in, although there isn’t much buzz surrounding him right now as an underclassman. He’s a versatile defensive back that can contribute in run support and pass coverage, but needs to add more strength and size to hold up in the NFL. If he declares he could be a mid-round pick.

GODADDY.COM BOWL, JANUARY 6/2013

Kent State Golden Flashes (11-2) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3)

The final bowl game before the BCS National Championship will be a matchup between two of the better non-BCS teams in Kent State and Arkansas State. It will feature just one prospect though in Golden Flashes OT Brian Winters (Sr). He’s a dominant run blocker and excellent pass protector. He has NFL-size and strength and plays with a mean streak. While Winters played left tackle for Kent State, he projects out better as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He’s one of the best small school prospects in the draft and could be taken as high as third round. Arkansas State doesn’t have any notable draft-eligible prospects.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 5 (JAN.2-JAN.3)

The final two BCS Bowl games before the National Championship will be played over the next two days and they shouldn’t disappoint for those watching for NFL prospects in this year’s upcoming draft. The Florida Gators lead the way with a very impressive group that could feature up to ten potential draft choices, while Oregon, Kansas State and Louisville will all have multiple entries into the 2013 NFL Draft.

ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL, JANUARY 2/2013

Florida Gators (11-1) vs. Louisville Cardinals (10-2)

The Gators and Cardinals will get the main stage to themselves in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night and there will be more than enough NFL prospects on display. Like fellow SEC powerhouses Alabama, Georgia and LSU, the Gators roster is jam-packed with draft-eligible players for the 2013 NFL Draft. The top of Florida’s draft class is headed by SS Matt Elam (Jr) and DT Sharrif Floyd (Jr). Elam is a powerful, hard-hitting safety that is a high impact player. He possesses the ability to change games whether it be with a ferocious hit that he often delivers multiple times a game or by using his ball skills and instincts to create a turnover and take it the other way. He contributes in a number of areas and has the versatility that NFL teams are demanding in today’s safeties. One of the most impressive things that Elam accomplished this season was his development as an elite leader. He stepped up in a big way and was a driving force in the Gators improvement from a 7-6 squad in 2011 to the no.3 ranked team in the country this season. Floyd is a dominating defensive lineman with the versatility to line up at multiple positions in the front four. He uses a great burst off the snap along with terrific hands and power to take out offensive linemen and get into the backfield. His best spot on the field is as a penetrating defensive tackle. Both Elam and Floyd are rising up prospect lists and expected to declare for this year’s draft where they are projected to be second round picks, but could definitely work their way into the first day of the draft. Florida has multiple potential mid-round selections in RB Mike Gillislee (Sr), TE Jordan Reed (rJr), DL Dominique Easley (Jr), ILB Jon Bostic (Sr) and OLB Jelani Jenkins (rJr). Gillislee had a career year this season and carried the Florida offense on his back from start to finish. He’s a three-down back with the ability to bang inside, take it for big yards on the outside or make plays with his hands as a receiver out of the backfield and is very similar to Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin. He has feature back potential. Jordan Reed has developed into a pretty nice pass-catching tight end in his time at Florida. He’s very similar to former Gator Aaron Hernandez as a faster, undersized tight end with the versatility to line up at multiple positions on offense, including quarterback where he took snaps as a freshman. He’s still in a bit of developmental stage and could opt to return to school for another season. Easley is a reliable defender that can be used at multiple spots on the defensive line. He’s best at shutting down the run, but does have a bit of pass-rushing ability that he shows on occasion. He should fit in nicely with a defensive line rotation at the next level. Athletic linebackers Bostic and Jenkins are a pair of talented, versatile defenders. Bostic is a steady presence in the middle against the run with the ability to provide a pass-rush and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s also an excellent leader that can be trusted with on-the-field play-calling duties. Jenkins is an extremely aggressive player that reads the action quickly and attacks the ball-carrier. His aggressive play isn’t all good as it has caused him to leave early and miss multiple games with injury. Both have NFL starting potential with the ability to contribute right away and could be steals. Late round prospects for the Gators include OLB/DE Lerentee McCray (rSr), OT Xavier Nixon (Sr), FS Josh Evans (Sr), K Caleb Sturgis (rSr) and DT Omar Hunter (rSr). Louisville has a pair of their own Day 3 prospects in CB Adrian Bushell (rSr) and C Mario Benavides (rSr). Bushell is a solid corner with decent all-around skills that excels on special teams, but has been around the block playing for multiple teams in high school and college and has various off-the-field red flags. Benavides is a tough, reliable interior lineman with good hands and ranks among the top five prospects at the center position.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL, JANUARY 3/2013

Oregon Ducks (11-1) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (11-1)

Oregon and Kansas State will do battle on Thursday night in what should be an offensive shootout. Both squads have multiple pro prospects with each team having a player or two that could be taken in the first three rounds. Oregon DE/OLB Dion Jordan (rSr) is a freak athlete blessed with outstanding physical attributes and incredible potential, but still has some raw aspects to his game after coming to Oregon as a tight end. He is quickly developing into a terrific pass-rusher and hybrid defender that can stay on the field for every down. His rare athleticism and various skills have scouts drooling and should result in a first round selection. OL Kyle Long (Sr) is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and another Oregon player that made a position change during his college career that resulted in him becoming a top-100 prospect. He’s a very good athlete with natural talent and the ability to play offensive tackle or guard, but is still raw in his development as an offensive lineman due to a lack of game-time experience. He could come off the board in the third round. RB Kenjon Barner (rSr) is a gifted, speed back with incredible vision and homerun hitting ability. He dominated the college ranks with a monster year in 2012 racking up 1624 rushing yards for 21 touchdowns including a 321-yard, 5 touchdown performance against USC. He also possesses good hands out of the backfield as a receiver. Unfortunately he is an undersized ball-carrier like former teammate and current 49er LaMichael James and will probably only be viewed as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. He’ll be selected somewhere in the mid-rounds. The Ducks also have a pair of possible late round prospects in ILB Kiko Alonso (rSr) and FS John Boyett (rSr). Talented P Jackson Rice (rSr) should catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent. Kansas State LB Arthur Brown (rSr) was an integral part of the Wildcats’ revival under Head Coach Bill Snyder the last few years. He’s been the leader on defense for the Wildcats since transferring from Miami-Florida and was so good this season he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a FWAA First-Team All-American. He’s slightly undersized, but makes up for it with fantastic speed, vision and awareness. He’s able to sniff out what the offense is doing and possesses the ability to defend both the run and pass. He has every down starting linebacker potential and could be a second round pick. Some scouts have compared him to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Potential late round prospects for the Wildcats include WR Chris Harper (rSr), OLB Meshak Williams (Sr), QB Collin Klein (rSr) and CB Nigel Malone (Sr).

 

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 4 (JAN.1)

Bowl Mania continues on New Year’s Day as six games involving a boatload of draft-eligible prospects will keep scouts, front offices and fans busy all day long. The day starts out slow for prospects, but quickly picks up as the bowls grow more important and involve higher profile prospect-stocked teams. A number of highly ranked players like Bjoern Werner, Taylor Lewan, Jarvis Jones and most of the rest of the Georgia draft class will be in action. Nothing like some college football to cure a hangover.

TAXSLAYER.COM GATOR BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)

New Year’s Day starts out pretty slow for prospects in the Gator Bowl with just one highly rated player. Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks (Sr) is an experienced corner with very good height and length that possesses the ability to play man coverage and in zone. His ball skills and instincts are among the best at the position and allow him to contribute in a number of areas and make game-changing plays. His lack of elite speed is the biggest question surrounding him right now and could keep him out of the first round, but won’t cause him to fall any further than the second. He was fantastic this season in winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and enters the 2013 NFL Draft as the top senior cornerback available. After Banks the Bulldogs have a group of mid to late round prospects that includes OG Gabe Jackson (rJr), CB Darius Slay (Sr), DT Josh Boyd (Sr) and OLB Cameron Lawrence (Sr). Jackson is a mammoth offensive lineman that moves incredibly well for a man his size and absolutely mauls defenders in pass protection and especially when run blocking. He has starting potential in the NFL and could be drafted as high as the third round. He still has a year of eligibility remaining and could return to Mississippi State for another season. CB Corey Broomfield (rSr) and WR Chad Bumphis (Sr) are likely undrafted free agents. Northwestern doesn’t have any noteworthy draft-eligible prospects this season.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

There are even fewer prospects in the other game at noon between the Boilermakers and Cowboys, but at least each team has a noteworthy draft-eligible player in this one. Purdue DT Kawann Short (rSr) is a huge athlete with the ability to dominate a game. While he’s able to handle double-teams and clog up the middle he’s not just the typical space-eating defensive tackle, but is actually a very talented pass-rusher from the interior as evidenced by the 18.5 sacks and 48 tackles for loss he amassed over his collegiate career. He is also able to use his huge wingspan to knock down passes and block kicks on special teams. He would probably be rated as a first round pick, but major questions exist about his lack of effort game in and game out and thought that he plays too passive at times. He probably comes off the board in the second round and could end up being a steal if he can change his bad habits. Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle (Jr) is a very talented running back with explosive speed and the ability to break off big runs when he gets just a bit of open space. He also has terrific hands out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. While he showed for the second straight season that he can handle a full workload as a feature ball-carrier, he will probably be best suited as a change of pace or third down back in the NFL. Randle has the choice to return to school for his final year of eligibility, but should he declare early he could be selected as high as the third or fourth round. Purdue CB Josh Johnson (Sr) is an underrated corner and has a chance to be a seventh round pick in April.

OUTBACK BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Michigan Wolverines (8-4) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2)

The number of prospects starts to pick up with the Outback Bowl matchup pitting Big Ten against SEC when the Wolverines and Gamecocks take the field. Michigan LT Taylor Lewan (rJr) is the highest rated prospect in this game and the only one that will be drafted in the first round in April. He’s a massive blindside protector with elite athleticism and may just be the most physically imposing prospect in the draft. His technique still needs some work, but he’s extremely competitive and plays with a mean streak. He’s soared up draft boards as the season’s gone on and looks to be the clear no.2 offensive tackle prospect behind Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel could sneak into the top ten of the draft. While he played basically his entire career at Michigan as a quarterback, WR Denard Robinson (Sr) will enter the draft as a receiver, although some think he could even be moved to cornerback. It is unlikely he’ll take too many snaps at quarterback in this game if at all. Instead he will likely line up as a receiver or running back throughout the game. While the position he’ll eventually play in the NFL is still unknown at this point, what is known about him is that he is an extremely fast and dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He could come off the board in the first half of Day 3. Late round hopefuls for the Wolverines include DE Craig Roh (Sr) and SS Jordan Kovacs (rSr), while ILB Kenny Demens (rSr), CB J.T. Floyd (rSr) and DT William Campbell (Sr) will most likely go undrafted. Hearts are still broken for South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (Jr) and what he’s had to go through after suffering his second brutal season-ending knee injury. In 2011 he went down with a torn ACL that he fought and rehabbed tooth and nail to come back from and did so successfully in regaining most of the form that had him rated as the top running back coming into the season. He was just starting to look completely like himself again when he went down with one of the most gruesome-looking injuries seen in sports in a while. Despite the injuries, the fact that he won’t be able to work out for anyone and another year of eligibility remaining, Lattimore has still chosen to declare early for the draft and hope for the best. His plan is to land on an NFL team and rehabilitate his knee with the best possible training staff. Is future at this point is a complete unknown. Aside from Lattimore whose draft stock is up in the air at this point, the Gamecocks feature a group of mid to late round prospects that will be playing in this game including FS D.J. Swearinger (Sr), OLB DeVonte Holloman (Sr), DE Devin Taylor (rSr) and C T.J. Johnson (rSr).

CAPITAL ONE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Georgia Bulldogs (11-2) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3)

Perhaps more so than any other team this season the Georgia Bulldogs are a legit showcase of NFL talent with up to twelve possible 2013 draft picks, six of which that could be taken among the first four rounds. OLB Jarvis Jones (rJr) is a freak athlete that is arguably the top pass-rusher and may even be the top prospect in the entire draft. He is an explosive pass-rusher with elite speed and strength and is constantly wreaking havoc in opposing backfields and taking out the quarterback. He rounded out his game very nicely this season displaying the ability to be more effective in stopping the run and holding his own when asked to drop into pass coverage. NFL front offices and scouts have all been eagerly waiting for Jones to enter the draft to have their shot at adding him to their squad, but if teams want him they’ll have to make a move as it’s not likely he makes it out of the top five selections. He is a big-time playmaker that should be able to start and dominate right away. NT John Jenkins (Sr) is a mammoth athlete and the best pure run-stopper in the draft. He’s basically impossible to move at the point of attack and is a dominating force in the middle. He handles double-teams without a problem and is able to make a play on the ball-carrier when he gets into the backfield. He’s not the most glamorous draft pick, but he is an immediate starter that can be plugged into the starting line up right away and will instantly upgrade anyone’s run defense. Outside of Jones, ILB Alex Ogletree (Jr) was Georgia’s best defender this year. Despite missing the first four weeks of the season he still managed to lead the team with 98 tackles in just nine games and was their most consistent and reliable player. He’s an outstanding athlete with the ability to make plays sideline to sideline whether chasing ball-carriers or dropping into pass coverage.  He possesses an excellent combination of size, length and speed and has the versatility to play multiple linebacker positions. His length especially has some scouts thinking that he could be a highly effective pass-rushing outside linebacker in the NFL. While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is the top ranked inside linebacker, Ogletree and his incredible athleticism is not far behind and may even be a more dynamic player than Te’o at the next level. He is a likely first round pick should he decide to declare a year early for the draft. QB Aaron Murray (rJr) is a tough, athletic quarterback with very good arm strength and clean mechanics, but he has struggles with his decision-making at times and lack ideal NFL size. He’s a confident kid with talent and could make for a nice developmental quarterback behind an established starter. A number of the quarterback prospects are closely jockeying for position with Murray likely a third or fourth round pick. Jones, Ogletree and Murray could all elect to return to school for their senior year, but only Murray is a real candidate to do that with Jones and Ogletree considered first round locks. The Bulldogs secondary is well represented with FS Bacarri Rambo (rSr) and SS Shawn Williams (Sr). Rambo is a playmaking safety that can lay the wood when delivering big hits and create turnovers in the secondary using his terrific instincts and ball skills. He’s constantly in the middle of the play making something happen. Williams is a smart, productive player that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a guy that coaches don’t have to worry about where is head is at and rarely makes mental errors. He’s a reliable safety that teams will know what they’re getting with him. Both safeties have the potential to be starters in the NFL and could be selected as high as the third round. A number of Georgia’s possible draft picks will be potential Day 3 selections including DT Abry Jones (Sr), WR Tavarres King (rSr), CB Sanders Commings (rSr), OLB Cornelius Washington (rSr) and CB Branden Smith (Sr). ILB Christian Robinson (rSr) will probably end up an undrafted free agent. The Cornhuskers have a pair of their own possible late Day 3 draft picks in RB Rex Burkhead (Sr) and FS Damion Stafford (Sr). Burkhead is a thick, power back with the ability to plow his way through the line for the hard yards inside or use his speed to make big plays on the outside with his feet or hands. He showed in 2011 that he can be a feature back, but this season he was constantly battling injuries causing him to miss six games and saw his production take a major dip. He’s probably a sixth round pick. Stafford will most likely join Burkhead in the last couple rounds of the draft. He is an underrated consistent defender that is at his best in run support and is decent in pass coverage, but could stand to make improvements in that area. He’s not going to blow any scouts away with his athleticism, but could be a solid special-teams and depth player that might come off the board late in the draft. Behind them is group of players that will likely go undrafted, but could sneak into the late portion of the draft including DE Eric Martin (Sr), K Brett Maher (Sr), ILB Will Compton (rSr) and DT Baker Steinkuhler (rSr).

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO, JANUARY 1/2013

Stanford Cardinal (11-2) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (8-5)

The 99th Rose Bowl will showcase two tough, smash mouth-types of teams in Stanford and Wisconsin and the seven prospects involved are perfect examples of that type of player. Stanford will feature one potential late first round pick to go with three others that could be mid-round selections. After taking over for Cody Fleener (Indy Colts), TE Zach Ertz (rJr) proved this season that he was an even better and more complete player than his former teammate. He showed off his big, soft hands and route-running ability in leading all FBS tight ends with 66 catches for 837 receiving yards, both school records, while adding six touchdowns. He’s not just another pass-catching tight end either after elevating himself into a dominant blocker this year. Ertz will be in close competition with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert for the top spot among tight ends and could sneak into the late first round. Stanford’s linebacker combination of OLB Chase Thomas (rSr) and ILB Shayne Skov (Sr) are a pair of hard-nosed, intelligent defenders. Thomas constantly causes chaos at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. He’s not an elite athlete, but makes up for that with high-energy all-out effort on every down. He’s the type of football player every team would want and could go as high as the late second round. Skov is a notch or two below Thomas, but is still a very good football player. He is solid in run support and can provide a pass-rush from the middle when called upon. Skov has a red flag or two off the field and should be taken in the first half of Day 3. RB Stepfan Taylor (Sr) is a workhorse back that has proven over the last three seasons that he can handle full-time duties at the position with three straight seasons of at least 1100 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He’s also a running back that doesn’t need to come off the field on third down as he has proven to be a talented pass-catcher out of the back field with 91 receptions for 718 yards and five scores. He’s a tough athlete with a thick, powerful frame built to handle the rigors of the NFL. He could be selected in the late third/early fourth round. Late round hopefuls for Stanford include WR Drew Terrell (Sr) and C Sam Schwartzstein (rSr). The Badgers will feature three mid-round draft choices in RB Montee Ball (Sr), OT Ricky Wagner (rSr) and OC/OG Travis Frederick (Jr). In the end it seems like Ball’s highly publicized decision to return to school for his senior season didn’t hurt him much after all as he earned a similar third round draft grade to the one he received last year. Like Taylor, Ball is a workhorse back that can handle 30+ carries a game, while often contributing with his hands on third down. Ball compiled an amazing 5040 career rushing yards with an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns with 76 and most total touchdowns with 82, including 39 total scores in 2011 to tie Barry Sanders’ single season NCAA record. While Ball is a highly talented running back with the potential to be feature ball-carrier in the NFL, he has already put 900 carries on his body heading into the Rose Bowl. His collegiate workload could have an effect on his draft position, but will definitely have an effect on his career long-term. He’s a third or fourth round pick. Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick will continue the Wisconsin tradition of sending talented, rugged offensive linemen to the NFL. These two are absolute maulers at the line of scrimmage and have the ability to just destroy oncoming defenders when run blocking. They are big, strong and as mean as it gets with the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line. Frederick has slightly more upside than Wagner, but both players should come off the board somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL, JANUARY 1/2013

Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

It will be big school versus small school in this season’s Orange Bowl as legendary powerhouse Florida State welcomes upstart Northern Illinois to the big show. The big school/small school angle is quite evident in terms of NFL prospects as the Seminoles have eight or nine players that could be draft picks in April. At the top of the Florida State draft class are potential first round picks DE Bjoern Werner (Jr) and CB Xavier Rhodes (rJr). The rise of German-born Bjoern Werner has been pretty remarkable. In just five short years he’s gone from a high-school exchange student with zero football experience to a First-Team All-American and one of the very top draft-eligible prospects. He is a powerhouse pass-rusher with the strength and power to flatten offensive linemen and the speed and explosive burst to beat them around the edge. He made a name for himself as junior, but became a star and elite prospect this season when he stepped up as the Seminoles feature pass-rusher following Brandon Jenkins’ season-ending injury. Despite having to often face the opponents’ best pass protector Werner was dominant registering 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He looks like a sure-fire top ten pick and could come off the board in the first three selections. Rhodes is a tough, very physical corner with imposing size and strength. He excels in the physical part of playing defense using his superior strength to get in the face of opposing wide receivers and knock them off of their routes. He also has pretty good speed and has shown he possesses the ability to cover receivers anywhere on the field. He’s projected to be a late first, early second round pick. Following Werner and Rhodes are four projected mid-round picks in OLB Brandon Jenkins (Sr), QB EJ Manuel (rSr), DE Cornellius Carradine (Sr) and DT Everett Dawkins (rSr). Jenkins is an explosive pass-rusher with first-round talent, but a Lisfranc injury in his left foot ended his season and dropped him down draft boards leaving his stock a bit up in the air. It won’t be until February or March before he’s able to show he’s fully healthy and worthy of a spot in the first half of the draft. Manuel is a big, athletic quarterback with a very strong arm and the mobility to make plays with his legs, but is still a project at this time. He makes too many bad decisions, holds on to the ball too long and seems to get rattled pretty quickly by pressure. He came into the season as a Heisman candidate and potential first round pick, but struggled despite Florida State’s impressive record and will now need a good showing at the Senior Bowl to sneak into the late third round, but could fall into Day 3. Carradine came into the season as the little known third man behind starters Werner and Jenkins, but like Werner he raised his game to another level with Jenkins’ injury and was flying up draft boards into the first round before going down with a torn right ACL in the season finale. He amassed 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss through twelve games, but like Jenkins his draft stock is really an unknown until he can show scouts he’s healthy again. Dawkins is a very athletic interior defensive lineman who is best at creating havoc in the middle and putting pressure on the passer even if it doesn’t translate to the stat sheet. His agility and athleticism allow him to move easily around the field and pursue ball-carriers. He should be an early Day 3 selection. Possible late round draft choices for the Seminoles include FB Lonnie Pryor (Sr), WR Rodney Smith (Sr), K Dustin Hopkins (Sr) and DT Anthony McCloud (rSr). Northern Illinois has just one late round hopeful in DE Sean Progar (rSr) for the 2013 NFL Draft. S Dechance Durante (rSo) is still just a sophomore, but is definitely a guy to watch for next year as he looks to have some star potential despite missing half the season with an injury.

 

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 3 (DEC.31)

College Bowl mania continues on New Year’s Eve Day with four good games to watch for draft-eligible players with a combined fifteen top 100 prospects spread throughout the day. The slate of games will include teams like LSU, USC, Clemson and North Carolina State. In fact LSU and USC could each have up to eight prospects potentially selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Some of the very top prospects playing in these bowls include quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon, wide receivers Robert Woods and DeAndre Hopkins and the LSU pass-rushing duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery.

FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

North Carolina State Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4)

The Wolf Pack and Commodores will kick of New Year’s Eve Day in a battle of ACC against SEC with three possible Day 2 prospects in action. North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon (rJr) is the top prospect in this game and the one that scouts will have most of their focus on. He’s a big quarterback with good height and excellent arm strength, but he has struggled with his decision-making and still needs a lot of work. He’s a solid prospect with very good upside and could come off the board in the second round. Glennon has an excellent chance to make a move up the quarterback draft class rankings with Geno Smith’s awful New Era Pinstripe Bowl performance, Matt Barkley injured and out of USC’s bowl game and SEC quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray not even involved in a bowl game this season. CB David Amerson (Jr) suffered one of the most dramatic falls down draft board of any player this season after coming into the year as a consensus top five prospect. It all started in the opener against Tennessee when he was lit up and exposed by Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and it’s been downhill from there.  He hasn’t been horrible this year, but he hasn’t been anywhere near the form he showed as a sophomore in 2011 when he amassed 13 interceptions. He has rare height and length for a corner with good cover ability and possesses terrific ball skills and instincts. His speed is the major question surrounding him and he could be viewed as a possible safety prospect despite playing his entire collegiate career as an effective corner.  Whether he’s drafted as a corner or a safety, Amerson is one of the better defensive backs in the draft and has some serious upside. Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews (Jr) was outstanding this season establishing a team record 1262 receiving yards on 87 catches in being named to the 2012 All-SEC First-Team.  He has good size and decent speed with a knack for the big play. He’s considered a better football player than an athlete and could be a solid addition to any NFL wide receivers corps. He could come off the board in the late third/early fourth round. All three prospects have the option of returning to school for another season and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see any of them back playing on Saturdays in the fall. Late round hopefuls include North Carolina State SS Earl Wolff (rSr) and FS Brandan Bishop (Sr) and Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers (rSr) and RB Zac Stacy (Sr).

HYUNDAI SUN BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

USC Trojans (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7)

It seems like everything is right in the college football world now that USC is back playing in a bowl game again, even if it’s not the one they had hoped for at beginning of the season. USC’s not just back in a bowl, but they’re back with eight potential draft picks on their roster. It wasn’t the senior season QB Matt Barkley (Sr) had hoped for when he chose to return for his last year of school passing on an opportunity to be a likely top five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Trojans quickly fell out of the National Championship picture, Barkley struggled to maintain an elite level of play and his no.1 prospect ranking before finishing the season with a shoulder injury which will keep him out of this game. Barkley has all the technique and intangibles on and off the field, but lacks the elite athleticism, arm strength and after six multi-interception games this season questions are now being raised about his decision-making ability. He’s still one of the better quarterback prospects available and will probably come off the board late in the first round, but he’s not the top five pick he came into the season as. Barkley isn’t the only Trojan that saw his draft stock fall this season. WR Robert Woods (Jr) came into the year as a mid-first round pick and arguably the top receiver in the draft, only to end up being overshadowed by teammate Marquis Lee. He still had a productive season with 73 catches for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns despite dealing with a nagging ankle injury for most of the year, but wasn’t anywhere close to putting up the same numbers that he did in 2011. He has fantastic size and athleticism and excels as a route-runner, but still struggles with too many drops and doesn’t always try to catch the ball cleanly with his hands often letting it hit his body first. He’s fallen down draft boards a little bit, but could still sneak into the late first round. While he still has another year of eligibility remaining, he has made it known that he will declare for the 2013 NFL Draft following Monday’s Sun Bowl. CB Nickell Robey (Jr) and DE Morgan Breslin (Jr) are another pair of underclassmen that could declare for the draft early. Robey is a small, but effective corner with good cover skills and can also contribute on special teams returning kicks and punts. His lack of size and strength is going to be a major issue in matching NFL wide receivers and could hurt his stock come April. Breslin is another undersized player for his position and may struggle to find the right position in the NFL. Despite his size, Breslin is still a very talented and productive pass-rusher leading the team with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss this year. He plays with terrific quickness and awareness and possesses an excellent first step off the snap. Of the underclassmen on the team eligible for the draft he seems the most likely to return to school for another year after just one season with Trojans following his transfer from junior college. Both Robey and Breslin could be third round picks should they enter the draft. FS T.J. McDonald (Sr) is another Trojan facing a declining stock as the 2013 NFL Draft nears. He’s a skilled safety with an imposing frame and an excellent combination of size, speed and athleticism. He’s a bone-crunching hitter and physical force on the football field. He struggled this year like a lot of the Trojans and probably saw his stock drop at least a round into the late third round. C Khaled Homes (rSr) is far and away the top center prospect available in the 2013 NFL Draft and the only one worth taking in the first four rounds. DE Wes Horton (rSr) and RB Curtis McNeal (rSr) are late round hopefuls, but likely undrafted free agents. Georgia Tech also has a pair of prospects and potential late round draft picks playing in OG Omoregie Uzzi (rSr) and CB Rod Sweeting (Sr). Uzzi is a tough, physical run blocker with a ton of starting experience and could go as high as the sixth round.

AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

Iowa State Cyclones (6-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (10-3)

In what can be considered the dud of the day, at least from a scouting perspective, Iowa State and Tulsa will each have just one potential late round draft pick. Iowa State ILB A.J. Klein (Sr) is a productive, hard-nosed three-down linebacker. He comes into this game with 342 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and a NCAA linebacker record with four interception returns for touchdowns in his career. He can play against the run or the pass. He could be selected as high as the sixth round. Tulsa FS Dexter McCoil (Sr) is a big, powerful safety that is very effective in run support and possesses the ball skills and instincts to create turnovers in the secondary. He will likely go undrafted, but could sneak into the seventh round.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL, DECEMBER 31/2012

LSU Tigers (10-2) vs. Clemson Tigers (10-2)

LSU and Clemson wrap up 2012 with the final football game of the year and yet another bowl battle between the SEC and ACC. LSU continues to be a NFL Draft factory continually churning out multiple high-level prospects every year with 2013 being no different as up to eight LSU Tigers could be selected in the draft, nine if you count former defensive back Tyrann Mathieu among their list of prospects. At the top of their draft class is the pass-rushing pair of OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo (rJr) and DE Sam Montgomery (rJr), who both rate among the top 20 draft-eligible prospects. Mingo is an exciting freak of an athlete that is still very raw in his football development (only started playing football as a junior in high school), but has incredible potential. He possesses fantastic speed off the edge as a former track star with an explosive first step and surprising power to overwhelm offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback. He’s also shown an ability to use his freakish long arms to get into passing lanes and knock the ball down. Mingo has the look of a hybrid defender that can be used in multiple spots in the front seven. A bit of disappointing season has him probably somewhere in the mid-first round. Montgomery is your traditional 4-3 defensive end with very good size and athleticism. He uses his superior quickness and all-out effort to get to opposing quarterbacks, but could use a few more moves as he often relies on just his speed to get into the backfield. While he is considered more of a traditional 4-3 defensive end, he has shown the ability to line up as a stand-up pass-rusher. He doesn’t have quite the upside of Mingo, but he also isn’t anywhere near the risk as he is already an established talent. He should end up coming off the board in the mid-first round as well. FS Eric Reid (Jr) will continue to prove that LSU’s moniker of “defensive back university” is true if he declares for the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s a complete safety with the ball skills and instincts to handle “center field” while in pass coverage and is highly effective in run support where he is a feared and violent hitter. He plays with a fierce intensity and non-stop aggressiveness. Reid is the top draft-eligible safety and could come off the board in the late first/early second round. ILB Kevin Minter (rJr) is a tackling-machine with incredible strength that also has shown the ability to get into the backfield and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He could be a Day 2 selection. Potential mid-round selections for LSU include a pair of defensive linemen in DT Bennie Logan (rJr) and DE Lavar Edwards (rSr). Logan is a disruptive, explosive interior lineman that uses his strength to handle double-teams and swallow up ball-carriers. He has some very good upside and could be taken as high as the late second/early third round. Edwards is a solid depth player that could find a fit in a defensive line rotation somewhere. He’s probably a fifth or sixth round pick. All of LSU’s top prospects are juniors with another year of eligibility and could choose to return to school for another season. WR Russell Sheppard (Sr) and DT Josh Downs (Sr) are late round hopefuls. Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (Jr) has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft instead of taking advantage of another year of eligibility in an attempt to rebuild his image while playing at a smaller school. Mathieu was finally kicked off the LSU team before the season after he continued to rack up off the field incidents involving the law. Despite being a game-changing talent in college Mathieu’s scouting report is littered with red flags. Numerous off the field issues plus a major lack of size and a full year away from football have Mathieu lucky to have a team take a late round flyer on him.

Clemson have their own pair of exciting prospects playing in this matchup in offensive dynamos WR DeAndre Hopkins (Jr) and RB Andre Ellington (rSr). Hopkins is a fast, athletic wide receiver with large, reliable hands and a nose for the end zone. His terrific athleticism allows him to routinely make acrobatic catches down field and cause tacklers to miss when in open space. His stock is rising and he could be selected as high as the second round. Ellington is very similar to former alumni C.J. Spiller. He’s a playmaking, speed back with homerun hitting ability that likes to bank most of his yards on the outside.  He possesses good vision and his high level of toughness makes up for his lack of size. He has a great set of hands for a running back that allows him to be a major factor in the passing game. He should be able to make a living as a change of pace and third down back in the NFL. He could be a third or fourth round selection. Potential mid to late round draft picks include DE Malliciah Goodman (Sr), FS Rashard Hall (rSr) and C Dalton Freeman (rSr). TE Brandon Ford (rSr) and SS Jonathon Meeks (Sr) are likely undrafted free agents.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 2B (DEC.28-29)

The second week of bowl mania comes to close with eight games across Friday and Saturday. A number of big name schools with highly ranked 2013 NFL Draft prospects will be on display for front offices, scouts and fans to see. Teams like Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Texas and Michigan State will be in action, while up to twelve prospects playing in these games could be first or second round picks in April. Prospects like Geno Smith, Logan Thomas, Tavon Austin, Alex Okafor and Jordan Poyer are just a few of the names to watch over the next two days.

ADVOCARE V100 INDEPENDENCE BOWL, DECEMBER 28/2012

Ohio Bobcats (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4)

There are no draft-eligible prospects of note on either team in this game.

RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL, DECEMBER 28/2012

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)

One of the more prospect-packed bowls of the week, Rutgers and Virginia Tech will combine for ten possible NFL draft picks with three being potential Day 2 selections. The Scarlet Knights boast a pair of talented defenders in OLB Khaseem Greene (rSr) and CB Logan Ryan (rJr) that could be second round picks in April. Greene is one of the more notable prospects to make major leaps up draft boards this season as he racked up countless tackles for Rutgers. After beginning his collegiate career as a defensive back, Greene moved to the weakside linebacker position in 2011 and exploded for 141 tackles in being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. A distinction he repeated this season in being just the second player in Big East history to be named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year twice. Greene was a dominant force this season amassing 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions in leading one of the nation’s top defenses. He’s a complete, three-down linebacker that is an impact player. Logan Ryan was also a dominant force for Rutgers this season registering 87 tackles, 4 picks and averaging 1.5 passes defended per game (8th nationally). In his two seasons as a starter Ryan has made major strides in his game in becoming a pretty complete corner with good size, great instincts and fantastic ball skills. He has displayed top corner potential. Both guys are moving up and could go very early in the second round, although Ryan still has a year of eligibility left for the Scarlet Knights and could return to school. Late round hopefuls, but likely undrafted free agents on Rutgers include ILB Steve Beauharnais (Sr), OT R.J. Dill (rSr), WR Mark Harrison (Sr) and TE D.C. Jefferson (rSr). Virginia Tech was a major disappointment this year. The team managed just a .500 regular season record this year and one of the main reasons was the very disappointing performances from their top draft-eligible prospects. At the top of the list is QB Logan Thomas (Jr), who came into the season as a possible top-15 draft pick, but just didn’t makes the major leaps in his game that many thought he would make and ended up plummeting down draft boards into possibly the third round. Thomas is a huge quarterback with a cannon for an arm and possesses the speed and mobility to make plays with his legs (997 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns in 2011 and 2012), specifically using his size and power to plunge through the line on short yardage where he’s almost an automatic first down. Thomas struggled throughout the season though, mainly with his accuracy, decision-making and inability to properly read defenses on a consistent basis. He has all the tools, size and athletic ability to be a star at the next level, but still remains a work in progress that could benefit greatly from another year of seasoning at the collegiate level. He is said to be leaning to returning to Virginia Tech for his senior season and if he can make the right progress in his game he could potentially be a top prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. After Thomas, Virginia Tech has group of potential Day 3 selections in WR Marcus Davis (rSr), ILB Bruce Taylor (rSr), WR Corey Fuller (rSr) and OT Nick Becton (rSr). Davis was a disappointment this season and saw his stock drop out as well. He possesses a combination of tantalizing size and speed, but has been way too inconsistent in his route-running and with his hands to be relied upon and seems to have a little diva in him. He’s a project worth taking a shot with, but he needs to be willing to work and improve his game if he wants to stick in the NFL. Taylor is an incredible leader and has the athleticism and skills to be a very good NFL linebacker, but a bad foot has constantly held him back and teams will be wary of investing in him until he can prove that his foot is completely healthy.

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL OF TEXAS, DECEMBER 28/2012

Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6)

The late game Friday night between Texas Tech and Minnesota is lacking in noteworthy prospects, but it will still involve some late round possibilities. Red Raiders prospects include QB Seth Doege (rSr), OT LaAdrian Waddle (Sr) and SS Cody Davis (rSr), while the Golden Gophers feature LB Mike Rallis (rSr) and WR MarQueis Gray (Sr). All of which will most likely go undrafted.

BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL, DECEMBER 29/2012

Rice Owls (6-6) vs. Air Force Falcons (6-6)

Rice TE Vance McDonald (rSr) is the only draftable prospect playing in this game. McDonald is a big, athletic tight end that can create mismatches against opposing defensive backs, but also possesses a variety of skills where he can be used in multiple positions on offense similar to former Owl and current Houston Texan James Casey.

NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL, DECEMBER 29/2012

West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5) vs. Syracuse Orange (7-5)

Former Big East rivals West Virginia and Syracuse renew hostilities in what should be a back and forth offensive shootout. Both squads feature multiple top 100 prospects, including Mountaineers QB Geno Smith (Sr), who ranks among the top 15 and could even be taken with the first overall pick by the quarterback-desperate Kansas City Chiefs. Smith has put together back to back phenomenal seasons for West Virginia compiling 8385 passing yards with 71 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions. He completed 65.8% of his passes in 2011 and raised that number to 71.4% this season. Smith has a big-time arm with very good accuracy, although his deep ball accuracy needs improving and he possesses the NFL size teams covet. He’s a mature leader on and off the field and should do well during the interview process with front offices in the lead up to the draft. He’s the best athlete in the quarterback class and has the mobility to make plays and be dangerous with his legs. One knock against him though is his lack of experience taking snaps under center as he has primarily played only in the shotgun in his career. He is a sure-fire first round pick. Smith’s two main offensive weapons WR Tavon Austin (Sr) and WR Stedman Bailey (rJr) will be joining him the draft. Both are smaller, dynamic playmakers that can hit the home run play from multiple spots on the field and a have nose for the end zone (Bailey 23 TDs in 2012, 12 in 2011/Austin 12 TDs in 2012, 8 in 2011). They both run with exciting speed and quickness, but still play with a running back’s toughness against bigger defenders. They are reliable pass-catchers that could be used as productive slot receivers in the NFL. Austin is currently earning the higher draft grade of the two due to his ability to line up as a running back (598 rushing yards, 3 TDs in 2012) and as a returner on special teams and could go as high as the late first round, while Bailey is primarily a receiver and could be selected in the third round.  Syracuse has a talented signal-caller of their own in QB Ryan Nassib (rSr), who is one of the hottest prospects right now and is moving his way up draft boards into a possible spot in the second round. He’s possesses NFL size with a good arm strength and accuracy. He’s solid in the pocket, but has also shown that he can make the necessary throws while on the run. He plays with intelligence, toughness and has developed into an impressive leader on and off the field. He may never be elite, but he does have the look of a guy who could be a consistent starter for the next ten years. Protecting Nassib’s blind side is one of the top draft-eligible left tackles in the nation in  OT Justin Pugh (rJr). The 6’5”, 300lb. tackle helped lead an Orange offensive line that allowed just 14 sacks this year and was named to the Big-East First-Team for the second straight season and his third consecutive all-conference selection. He’s an effortless blocker in pass protection and the run game.  The ceiling is extremely high for Pugh as he continues to add more size and strength to his frame and while he currently sits as a possible second round pick, he could make a late move into the first round. Along with Nassib and Pugh, the Orange also have a pair of potential Day 3 selections in SS Shamarko Thomas (Sr) and WR Alec Lemon (Sr).

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL, DECEMBER 29/2012

Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) vs. Navy Midshipmen (7-4)

The Sun Devils come into this game with a pair of prospects, although one may return to school and the other could go undrafted. DT Will Sutton (Jr) is an impact player and when he was healthy this season he carried the Arizona State defense. Despite battling injuries, Sutton was still able to amass an impressive 10.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. He also displayed an ability to get his arms in passing lanes and knock the ball down and has shown the versatility to play multiple spots on the defensive line. If he chooses to enter the draft Sutton could be a third or fourth round pick. OLB Brandon MaGee (rSr) is a productive linebacker with a well-rounded game, but he looks like a depth player at this point and has a shot to be drafted in the seventh round.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL, DECEMBER 29/2012

Texas Longhorns (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (9-3)

The Longhorns and Beavers will showcase one of the more impressive groups of prospects in a bowl game this season with three draft-eligible players on each team, all of which rank among the top 100 prospects. The Longhorns boast two very talented pass-rushers in DE Alex Okafor (Sr) and DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Jr), along with one of the top safeties in the country FS Kenny Vaccaro (Sr). Okafor is a good, but not great athlete that relies on his strength, power and good hand technique that he developed as sophomore playing defensive tackle to bull rush offensive linemen from the outside on his way to the quarterback. He’s relentless in his attack and gives all-out effort on every play to make up for his lack of elite athletic ability. Okafor remained a steadying force for the Longhorns this season despite receiving added attention after fellow pass-rusher Jackson Jeffcoat went down with a season-ending injury mid-year. He’s a possible late first round pick, but could see his stock take a hit into the mid-rounds if he struggles to put up good measurables at the Combine. While Okafor gets by using superior technique, Jackson Jeffcoat relies on his impressive athleticism and explosiveness to get the job done rushing the passer. Jeffcoat is a natural pass-rusher with the pure athletic prowess to play standing up or with his hand in the ground. Despite rupturing his pectoral muscle mid-season he was still able to register 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and six quarterback pressures. The son of former NFL standout Jim Jeffcoat, Jackson has a much higher upside than Okafor, but because the injury has kept him off the field he has slipped down draft boards into Day 2 and could still choose to return to school for another season in order to get completely healthy and display his full potential to scouts. He won’t play Saturday. Kenny Vaccaro is a complete safety with the ball skills and cover ability to be steady in pass coverage and the physicality and toughness to stop the run. He is a sure tackler with the versatility and size/speed combination to man either safety position and is a special-teams ace. There’s no doubt he should come off the board on Day 2. CB Carrington Byndom (Jr) could be a mid-round pick if he chooses to enter the draft a year early. For Oregon State, CB Jordan Poyer (Sr) and WR Markus Wheaton (Sr) are their top two prospects and both could be second round picks in April. Poyer put together his second straight fantastic season this year in helping lead a turnaround of the Oregon State program. He recorded seven interceptions this season including one for a score and had 6 passes defended despite teams often throwing away from him.  He’s a good athlete with the strength and toughness to battle bigger receivers and possesses the ball skills and instincts to create turnovers and go from defense to offense in a split second. He should be able to step in as a nickel corner right away with potential to eventually develop into a NFL starter. Markus Wheaton is a dynamic receiver with incredible speed that finally took his game to another level and came into his own as a big-time playmaker this year. He amassed an impressive 88 catches for 1207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding a pair of rushing scores. He’s a versatile athlete that can line up at multiple spots on offense and create nothing into something with very little space to work with and fill up the stat sheet. He possesses reliable hands and should find a home as a slot receiver with the ability to develop into a very good no.2 wide out down the road. DE Scott Crichton (rSo) is just a sophomore, but because he’s been at Oregon State for three seasons (one as a redshirt) he can enter the draft should he choose to. He was unstoppable in the first half of the season recording eight of his nine sacks before opposing teams started focusing solely on stopping him.  He also racked up 17 tackles for loss on the year. He has an explosive first step and creates havoc in opposing backfields all game long. I expect he’ll return to the Beavers for his junior year before entering the 2014 NFL Draft with still another year of eligibility remaining. While he probably won’t be in the 2013 NFL Draft he is still a guy worth watching this Saturday night.

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL, DECEMBER 29/2012

Michigan State Spartans (6-6) vs. Texas Christian Horned Frogs (7-5)

In the final bowl of the week a solid group of mid to late round prospects will be on display between Michigan State and TCU. The Spartans boast the majority of the prospects in this game with DE William Gholston (Jr) leading the way. After an outstanding sophomore campaign Gholston came into the year viewed as a potential late first round pick, but a disappointing season this year has caused his stock to drop into the mid-rounds and raised red flags about his commitment and effort to playing hard every game. Despite not living up to expectations this year, Gholston still possesses the NFL size and strength to dominate blockers and the quickness to get into the backfield from time to time. He’s a better run-stopper than pass-rusher. His best performance of the season in an overtime victory against Wisconsin showed just how dominate he can be.  Gholston could choose to return to school for his final year of eligibility in an attempt to redeem his image and improve his stock. The Spartans also have a pair of solid weapons on offense in RB Le’Veon Bell (Jr) and TE Dion Sims (rJr) that will most likely come off the board early on Day 3. Bell is the definition of a power back and he’s a giant one at 6’2”, 244lbs. His 1648 rushing yards led the Big Ten, while his 824 yards after contact was a nation-high.  He runs over defenders using his superior power and strength, but also has the foot work and speed to break off big runs on the outside. He’s a reliable receiver out of the backfield as well tallying 65 catches over the past two seasons. He could crack the late third round for a running back-needy team. Sims is a powerful tight end with near offensive lineman size that allows him to destroy defenders when blocking, but still has soft enough hands and feet to contribute in the receiving game. He’s nowhere near the pass-catching tight end that a number of the other prospects in his position class are, but he is a more complete prospect than most of those other tight ends. Like Gholston, Bell and Sims have the option to return to Michigan State for a final year of eligibility. Bell has nothing left to prove and would benefit from not having to put another 300 plus carries on his body (350 carries this season), while Sims would probably be better off with another year at the collegiate level to further improve as a receiving threat. Potential late round prospects for Michigan State include CB Johnny Adams (rSr), DT Anthony Rashad White (Sr) and OG Chris McDonald (rSr).  The Horned Frogs have just one prospect of note in CB Jason Verrett (Jr). The 2012 Third-Team All-American was fantastic this season in recording 6 interceptions and 20 passes defended as the only player in the nation to rank in the top ten in both categories. He has good all-around skills, but doesn’t have ideal size to be a starting NFL corner and could find a spot as a nickel back. He probably comes off the board early on Day 3, but still could return to school for his senior year.

 

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 2A (DEC.24-DEC.27)

The second week of bowl mania gets underway on Christmas Eve and marks the start of a 13-game week. The first five bowls of the week will feature three potential first round picks, a couple mid-round prospects and as always a number of possible late round draft choices. The three guys to really watch in the first half of the week for the 2013 NFL Draft are Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Terrance Williams of Baylor and UCLA’s Anthony Barr. The Holiday Bowl match-up between Baylor and UCLA on Thursday night is the best game of the five to watch for prospects.

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL, DECEMBER 24/2012

SMU Mustangs (6-6) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (9-3)

SMU and Fresno State kick off the second week of bowls and feature three possible mid-round draft choices. The Mustangs have one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft in massive DE Margus Hunt (rSr). The former Estonian shot put and discus throw champion is an incredible freak of an athlete that decided to make the move to American football and has done so with great success and is only getting better with more experience. An explosive pass-rusher with great power and agility, he is a problem to stop for many offensive linemen. Hunt’s not just a pass-rusher as he has displayed a remarkable uncanny ability to block kicks. He holds the NCAA career record for most blocked field goal attempts with 10 and added 7 blocked extra points making him second all-time in total blocked kicks. He’s currently rated around a third or fourth round pick, but watch out for him at the Scouting Combine where he is likely to blow scouts away with his on-field performance in the various drills and could shoot up draft boards. SMU also features the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year FB Zach Line (rSr). It’s not very often that a fullback gets talked about being drafted, let alone possibly being selected in the middle of the draft, but Line is an exceptional talent. While he is likely to make a career in the NFL blocking for other running backs, Line has shown the ability to be a very productive running back in his own right after putting up three straight seasons of at least 1200 yards rushing and displaying an ability to catch the football out of the backfield.  He has the look of a Peyton Hillis-type of athlete and it will be very interesting to see where a team takes him. Keep an eye on him possibly landing with the Jets to help their ground and pound attack if the current regime is still in place. SMU OLB Ja’Gared Davis (Sr) could be a seventh-round pick. On the other side of the field, Fresno State is led on defense by SS Phillip Thomas (rSr), who put together just an absolutely incredible year after missing the entire 2011 season with a brutal leg injury. He came back strong in 2012 though amassing 8 interceptions (3 for touchdowns), 82 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. He is the complete package at safety showing the ball skills and instincts necessary to be a dangerous playmaker in pass coverage, while also being displaying the strength and toughness in helping stop the rushing attack of opposing teams. He really is an outstanding talent that does a bit of everything on the field and is always there when a big play is needed. He is surging up draft boards as fast as any prospect right now and could possibly go early on Day 2 in the second round of the draft.

LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL, DECEMBER 26/2012

Central Michigan Chippewas (6-6) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5)

Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher (Sr) will have the stage to himself on Wednesday as likely the only player in this game that will get drafted. He won’t only get drafted, but could be a possible first round pick. Fisher is a name most won’t know, but will hear his name go pretty early in the draft. An extremely under the radar prospect, Fisher has started to emerge higher and higher on draft boards the past few months as more front offices and scouts see him on tape. He’s a solid athlete with good athleticism and footwork. He’s not the most stout of anchors, but can handle smaller speed rushers and displays good power and ferocity when run-blocking. He’s the top Senior Offensive Tackle and could make a team like the Bears very happy. Look for him to be selected in the bottom third of the first round in April. After Fisher, there’s a pair of potential seventh-round picks in Central Michigan SS Jahleel Addae (rSr) and Western Kentucky DE Quanterus Smith (rSr). Smith is an intriguing athletic pass-rusher that has fallen down draft boards after tearing the ACL in his left knee in mid-November. Smith won’t play in this game.

MILITARY BOWL PRES. BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN, DECEMBER 27/2012

Bowling Green Falcons (8-4) vs. San Jose State Spartans (10-2)

Not much to talk about in terms of draftable prospects between the Falcons and Spartans, but there are four players worth mentioning that could be late Day 3 selections. San Jose State TE Ryan Otten (rSr) is the best of the bunch and is another one of those athletic tight ends that are all the rage in football these days. He has very good size and is a decent pass-catcher that can create mismatches against opposing defenses and be a legit downfield threat. He has some good potential and could go as high as the fourth or fifth round. Spartans’ LT David Quessenberry (rSr) and DE Travis Johnson (Sr) could be sixth or seventh-round picks that could contribute as backups in the NFL, along with Bowling Green’s sole prospect DT Chris Jones (Sr).

BELK BOWL, DECEMBER 27/2012

Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. Duke Blue Devils (6-6)

The Bearcats and Blue Devils is another game featuring a group of possible Day 3 draft choices. Cincinnati ILB Greg Blair (Sr) emerged on scouts’ radar after putting together a fantastic senior season in which he led the Bearcats in tackles, tackles for loss while being a force defending the pass. He has the skills and potential to be a three-down linebacker and could be a great guy to have on the depth chart behind a team’s starters. Also possibly being selected late in the draft from the Bearcats could be FS Devin Drane (Jr), TE Travis Kelce (rSr), RB George Winn (rSr) and SS Drew Frey (rSr). The Blue Devils feature a pair of prospects on offense. WR Conner Vernon (Sr) just produces. He’s the type of receiver that doesn’t jump off the screen with his size, speed or playmaking ability, but just seems to fill up the stat sheet. Of all the great receivers to have played in the ACC over the years, it’s Vernon who will finish his college career as the conference’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards with 273 catches for 3,630 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s experienced, reliable and productive. He should add good depth to an NFL receiving corps and could be a fifth or sixth round pick. It seems like QB Sean Renfree (rSr) has been starting for Duke forever. The Blue Devils quarterback has been a solid leader for the team since taking over as a sophomore in 2010 and is one of the main reasons they find themselves playing for a bowl again. Renfree doesn’t have the greatest numbers, but possesses good size, arm strength and appears to have the tools that NFL scouts look for in potential quarterbacks. He’ a traditional drop-back passer with very good intelligence and has been well-coached under David Cutcliffe, the Manning brothers’ former mentor. He should come off the board on Day 3.

BRIDGEPOINT EDUCATION HOLIDAY BOWL, DECEMBER 27/2012

UCLA Bruins (9-4) vs. Baylor Bears (7-5)

In what should be one of the more entertaining bowl games of the season, Baylor and UCLA should put on an offensive show full of fireworks. Both teams have notable prospects playing in this matchup with each team featuring a potential first round pick. The prospect to watch for Baylor is WR Terrance Williams (rSr), the nation’s leader in receiving yards with 1764 yards and 12 touchdowns. Williams took his game to another level this year after taking over the #1 receiver spot for the departed Kendall Wright. He put up some solid numbers as Wright’s wingman in 2011, but displayed this year that he too has the talent and skills to be a first round pick like his former teammate. He’s a tough downfield receiver with great hands, excellent footwork and underrated speed that allows him to separate from opposing defensive backs. He’s probably a second-round selection, but could crack the late first round and is the top senior wide out in the draft. He’s 236 yards away from becoming only the second receiver in NCAA history to finish with 2000 yards receiving. Trying to slow Williams down will be UCLA’s two best prospects OLB Anthony Barr (Jr) and DE Datone Jones (rSr). After deciding to switch from running back/wide receiver to outside linebacker this year with the arrival of new Head Coach Jim Mora Jr, Barr put together an absolutely incredible season at his new position. He led the nation in sacks with 13.5 and the Pac-12 with 20.5 tackles for loss. His unique combination of size, speed and athleticism was made to be a pass-rusher and has led to him realizing what his full potential could be. He is still very raw after just one season at outside linebacker, but his ceiling is incredibly high, as high as any other draft-eligible prospect. The son of former NFL fullback Tony Brooks, Barr is generating a ton of buzz and has entered first round discussions. He still has another year of eligibility remaining and appears to be leaning that way and returning to school, but has left his decision open depending on how high a grade he receives from draft evaluators. Another  year of coaching and experience in college could help Barr in the long run, but a possible spot in the first round could be too good to pass up. Jones is a versatile defensive lineman with the large frame, strength and athleticism to play multiple spots along the defensive front in a variety of schemes. He’s reliable against the run and has shown he has enough speed and agility to attack the quarterback and make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well. His best fit is probably as a five-technique defensive end, but teams especially ones that use multiple defensive schemes will be highly attracted to Jones and he should end up being selected on Day 2 of the 2013 NFL Draft. UCLA RB Jonathan Franklin (rSr) has been the offensive catalyst for this program since arriving on campus and amassing 4369 career rushing yards (UCLA record) with 34 career touchdowns (3 receiving), including 1700 rushing yards (UCLA record) and 13 touchdowns this year. He also displayed an added element to his game this season showing good hands out of the backfield with 32 catches for 319 yards and 2 scores, which is a big reason why his draft stock has moved up the board. Franklin possesses NFL-speed with the ability to find small holes in the line of scrimmage to squeeze through and can make defenders miss in the open field. He’s a big-play back that could find a spot as a third-down specialist, but will probably need to add more strength and bulk to his frame if he wants to become a feature NFL running back. He looks like an early Day 3 pick in the fourth or fifth round.  Some prospects to keep an eye on as late round possibilities include Baylor QB Nick Florence (rSr) and UCLA TE Joseph Fauria (rSr) and OG Jeff Baca (rSr). After patiently waiting for his turn as the Bears’ full-time starter behind Robert Griffin III, Florence made the most of his chance finishing third in the nation with 4121 passing yards while adding 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite putting up some impressive numbers Florence’s lack of decision making and inconsistency will keep him waiting until at least the sixth or seventh round to be drafted if at all. Fauria is a big, athletic tight end with soft hands and decent route-running ability, but is still a bit raw due to a lack of playing time.

Written By: Mark Scott



2013 NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH: BOWL GAMES PART 1 (DEC.15-DEC.22)

Another college football regular season is in the books giving way to bowl season and the next step in the draft process for eligible prospects.  For many prospects this could be their last chance until the NFL Scouting Combine to show off their talent to scouts and NFL front offices. The first set of bowl games doesn’t feature too many prospects, but there are a few notable players worth taking a look at like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, Desmond Trufant of Washington and Boise State’s Jamar Taylor.

GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL, DECEMBER 15/2012

Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5) vs. Arizona Wildcats (7-5)

An offensive explosion is expected in the first bowl game of the postseason between Nevada and Arizona, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that four of the top five prospects featured in this game are offensive players. The Wildcats are led by 2012 All-Pac-12 Second-Team QB Matt Scott (rSr), who really emerged as a legit talent this season under new Head Coach Rich Rodriguez putting up impressive stats with both his arm and his legs. Scott is an athletic quarterback with a live arm and excellent mobility that is at his best when rolling out and forcing defenses to account for his legs leaving receivers open downfield. Scott isn’t among the top ten quarterbacks in the draft class, but still could be a fourth or fifth-round pick.  One of Scott’s top targets, WR Dan Buckner (rSr) will also be in the 2013 NFL Draft. Buckner is a big wideout with good speed, but comes with off-the-field baggage that led to his transfer from Texas and wasn’t nearly as productive when he was on the field as expected for such a highly-touted former high school recruit. He’s a late-round project worth the risk.  Nevada has its own playmakers on offense led by RB Stefphon Jefferson (Jr) and TE Zach Sudfeld (rSr). While Jefferson rushed for an impressive 1703 yards (5.0 YPC) and 22 touchdowns this season, he finds himself currently ranked outside the top 15 running backs and with a year of eligibility left he will probably return to Nevada for another season. If he does enter the draft, look for him to be selected somewhere on Day 3. Sudfeld will also be a Day 3 selection. An impressive athlete at the tight end position, Sudfeld missed all of 2011 but returned to action this season as an impact player for the Wolf Pack. At 6’7”, 255lbs he will draw comparisons to New England’s Rob Gronkowski and could be a late-round steal.  On defense, Nevada is led by their top prospect SS Duke Williams (Sr). He certainly passes the eye test and could be a guy who lights it up at the Combine with his combination of size, strength and speed. On the field, he’s a big hitter with the versatility to line up anywhere in the back four. He will give the Wolf Pack another Day 3 selection to talk about.

FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL, DECEMBER 15/2012

Toledo Rockets (9-3) vs. Utah State Aggies (10-2)

A battle between two of the better non-BCS teams in the nation in Toledo and Utah State will feature a trio of Day 3 prospects. Utah State CB Will Davis (Sr) is a talented corner that really came on late this season with an interception in each of his final five contests including taking one back for a touchdown in the season finale against Idaho. He’s a solid athlete with good size and possesses shut down ability, but has played against pretty weak competition in his collegiate career. He’s a fourth or fifth-round pick, although SI’s Tony Pauline has him rated as a potential first round selection. Aggies’ RB Kerwynn Williams (Sr) is a smaller, multi-purpose back that has the speed to get yards on the outside or catching passes out of the backfield. After contributing as a backup the last couple of seasons, Williams exploded this year after entering the starting lineup amassing 1277 yards rushing, 663 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns. He projects as a third down back in the NFL and probably comes off the board in the fifth round.  Toledo’s top prospect is RB David Fluellen (Jr), a good-sized back with speed and quick feet that displays good vision. I expect him to be carrying the ball for the Rockets for another season as he appears to be way off the radar among scouts despite rushing for 1460 yards and 13 touchdowns. He could be a guy to watch in the 2014 draft otherwise he could be Day 3 selection in April. After Fluellen the only other prospect for Toledo is ILB Dan Molls (Sr), a likely undrafted free agent.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL, DECEMBER 20/2012

Brigham Young Cougars (7-5) vs. San Diego Aztecs (9-3)

The BYU/San Diego State game will be one of the better bowls to watch for prospects in the first week with a pair of draft eligible players on each team. Cougars’ DE Ezekiel Ansah (Sr) is not only the most impressive prospect to watch of the first week, but one of most in the entire draft. A raw, but incredible athlete, Ansah only began playing football just two years ago after coming to BYU from Ghana on a track and field scholarship. At 6’6”, 270lbs. and off-the-chains athleticism, the sky is the limit for Ansah, who has picked up the sport at an incredible pace in becoming one of the most talked about prospects and one of the most feared pass-rushers in the nation. He has the ability to line up and create a pass rush with either his hand on the ground or standing up and should be able to be used in any defensive scheme. Coaches and scouts will savor over the opportunity to add Ansah to their roster, but will have to make a move early as most expect him to be a mid-first round pick in April. Joining Ansah in the 2013 NFL Draft could be teammate WR Cody Hoffman (Jr), a big wide receiver with good hands and the ability to separate from defenders using his size and speed. He put together a very productive campaign with 1134 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s a bit low on draft boards as a fifth round pick and I expect he will choose to return to school for another year and try to improve his draft stock with another great season. Versatile shut down defender, LB Kyle Van Noy (Jr) is another noteworthy candidate on BYU to come out early for the draft and could be a mid-round pick, but like Hoffman should be back at BYU for another year. For San Diego State, CB Leon McFadden (Sr) and TE Gavin Escobar (rJr) could represent the Aztecs at the draft in April. McFadden will be there for sure and could be selected as high as the third round. He has good size and possesses the ball skills and cover ability to shut down opposing receivers. He’s a versatile player that can be used in man or zone and can contribute against the run as well. Escobar is a player that has scouts buzzing and as a result he’s risen up draft boards and could now decide to enter the draft early while his name is hot. He’s another great athlete with size and mobility at the tight end position with the ability to catch the football. He’s a decent blocker as well for a predominantly pass-catching tight end. He has the looks of a potential Day 2 selection. QB Ryan Katz (rSr) will probably go undrafted and look to catch on with a team’s practice squad following the draft.

BEEF ‘O’ BRADY’S BOWL ST. PETERSBURG, DECEMBER 21/2012

Ball State Cardinals (9-3) vs. Central Florida Knights (9-4)

No one really worth talking about in regards to the draft playing in this matchup. For the hardcores, Central Florida FS Kemal Ishmael (Sr) and OG Theo Goins (rSr) will most likely be undrafted free agents.

R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL, DECEMBER 22/2012

East Carolina Pirates (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4)

The Rajin’ Cajuns feature the only prospect of note in this one in CB Melvin White (rSr). He possesses fantastic size at 6’3”, 191lbs. and plays a tough, physical game. He’s all over draft boards right now ranging anywhere from a seventh round pick to as high as the third round.

MAACO BOWL LAS VEGAS, DECEMBER 22/2012

Washington Huskies (7-5) vs. Boise State Broncos (10-2)

The best game of the first week of bowls is between Washington and Boise State and it will showcase a pair of very good cornerbacks. Huskies’ CB Desmond Trufant (Sr) has been one of the Pac-12’s best cornerbacks since stepping on to the field and starting nine games as a freshman. He’s been a stalwart for Washington’s defense the past four seasons and has only gotten better every year. The younger brother of Marcus and Isaiah Trufant, the NFL has been in Desmond’s future for a long time. He’s a true shutdown corner with some of the best cover skills and instincts in the draft class and has #1 cornerback potential. He’ll be a second round pick in April. On the other sideline is an impressive shutdown corner in his own right in Boise State CB Jamar Taylor (rSr), who saw his talent really take off this year with a MWC Defensive Player of the Year-worthy season. He’s a hard-nosed player that doesn’t back down in coverage and is a willing tackler in run support. He’ll likely come off the board in the third round.  The Broncos also have a pair of prospects with late round potential in RB D.J. Harper (rSr) and CB Jerell Gavins (rSr).

Written By: Mark Scott



2012 NFL Draft Watch: Prospect All-Star Games (JAN 21/2012)

Written By: Mark Scott

NFL Draft season is now in full swing as a record number of under classmen have officially declared and All-Star games featuring draft eligible prospects go down this Saturday, January 21/2012. It is the first chance since the College Football regular and post-season ended for prospects to showcase their talent to NFL Coaches, Scouts and Evaluators. The action begins with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at 3 pm ET in Los Angeles, while the East-West Shrine Game will be played on the NFL Network at 4 pm ET from St. Petersburg, Florida. Following the two big games will be The Battle of Florida in Boca Raton, Florida at 8 pm ET on Fox College Sports. Of course practices have been happening all week and more than a few players have made good impressions, while all of the prospects jostle for draft position. There are not a whole lot of big names playing in these three games with mostly potential Day 3 Draft selections on the rosters, although there are a couple of note-worthy prospects that could be chosen on Day 2 of the draft.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will feature 100 potential NFL Draft picks this year led by Head Coaches Dick Vermeil and Tom Flores, although the game and practices will not be attended by NFL Scouts, as under the current collective bargaining agreement, they cannot attend events involving underclassmen. Nonetheless, they will all receive tapes of the event, so prospects will need to be on their A-game if they want to have a shot at getting drafted. Miami’s OL Brandon Washington, who will dress for the American Team, is the top dog at this event and has shown it this week during practices. The potential second round pick has lived up to his draft rating so far displaying the physical and mental abilities to play Offensive Tackle and both Guard positions. He showed he has the strength, quickness and footwork to handle playing Left Tackle, where he played this past season and then later in the week, he proved he could line up and play on the interior, where he was an All-ACC First-Team selection in 2010. Washington is definitely a guy to watch this Saturday. Northwestern’s DE Vince Browne has been the best of the American Team’s defensive linemen. He has shown good balance and quick feet and has shown the ability to get passed blocks and make plays along the line of scrimmage. Eastern Washington’s QB Bo Levi Mitchell is the player to watch among the small school contingent on the American squad after leading the Eagles to a FCS National Title in 2010 and being named the Walter Payton Award winner in 2011 as the best player in the Football Championship Subdivision. Along with Mitchell, Liberty’s NT Asa Chapman has shown this week in practice that he could be a solid run-stopper at the Nose in the NFL, but is limited when he has to move outside his area.  Morehead State’s RB Desmond Cox and Southern’s WR Jared Green are also worth a look as small school players, while the American Team will also include WR Keith Nichol MCST, S Eddie Whitley VTCH, WR Lavasier Tuinei OREG, DE Max Holloway BC and QB Jarrett Lee LSU. The National Team will be led by QB Jacory Harris MIA, ILB Chris Galippo USC, S Neiko Thorpe AUB, S Tony Dye UCLA and WR Taylor Embree UCLA. A pair of pass-rushers shined for the National squad during practices in Bowie State’s OLB Delano Johnson and Oklahoma State’s DE Wilson Youman. Johnson stood out immediately as he already has the body and build of an NFL player and then demonstrated the speed, power and explosiveness to rush the passer from the 3-4 as an OLB and with his hand on the ground as a DE in the 4-3. He also showed great passion and enthusiasm on the field. Youman showed good speed and strength to attack opposing quarterbacks and exceptional technique to the point he was asked by Coaches to demonstrate for others. Small school players to watch for the National Team includes Langston CB Antonio Dennard, Georgia Southern’s CB/KR LaRon Scott and Southern WR LaQuinton Evans.

East-West Shrine Game

This is definitely the game to watch of the three this weekend as it will showcase more potential NFL draft picks than the other two combined, although there may be only one or two players that get drafted before Day 3. The East squad will be led by Head Coach Bobby Ross and will feature players such as OLB/DE Brandon Lindsay PITT, QB John Brantley FLA, QB Austin Davis SMSP, WR AJ Jenkins ILL and OG Quinton Saulsberry MSST. Lindsay is the top rated prospect at this event and has some work to do after a disappointing season where he saw his stock fall from a potential late first-rounder to the late third round grade he had heading into this week’s practices. He has yet to blow anyone away this week and could see his stock continue to take a hit. On to the more impressive showings this week for the East Team starting with Tennessee RB Tauren Poole, who emerged as the top running back at the event demonstrating good quickness and a tough running style, while consistently getting to the second level in practice. A pair of East wide outs have performed well in Michigan State WR BJ Cunningham and WR LaRon Bryd of Miami. Cunningham has good size, hands and body control, but a lack of speed has hurt his stock. He has impressed scouts with his playmaking ability, but will need to eventually show he can consistently separate from defenders and get into the open field. Scouts are all over the board with him. Bryd continued his regular season struggles early in the week before emerging with impressive workouts mid-week. A massive wide receiver at 6’4, 224lbs, Bryd’s size has really caught the attention of scouts, but so did his ability to elevate and make catches at the ball’s highest point above opposing defensive backs. The East squad’s small school contingent has been perhaps the most impressive of all of the players at the event. Former LSU transfer, Regina (Alberta, Canada) DT Akiem Hicks is still a bit raw, but is a mammoth man at 6’5, 324lbs with an 84 inch wingspan that has shown he knows how to use his size and strength. He also displayed good movement and nimble feet for a man his size and could be a sleeper. Coastal Carolina’s CB Josh Norman might be the most impressive of anyone this week as he has shown good size, speed and an impressive burst towards the play. He’s made plays all week all over the field and could see his draft stock skyrocket into the first three rounds, although there are off-the-field concerns with him. QB BJ Coleman CHAT, WR Thomas Mayo CAL-PN, OG Rishaw Johnson CAL-PN and WR Tim Benford TNTC have also made good impressions on scouts this week. The West Team will be coached by Brad Childress and will include ILB Jerry Franklin ARK, OT Matt Reynolds BYU, S Blake Gideon TEX, QB Chandler Harnish, OT Markus Zusevics IOW and RB Marc Tyler USC. Arkansas WR Jarius Wright is the West’s top rated player in this game and probably should’ve been invited to the Senior Bowl instead. He is a smaller wide out, but has exceptional speed, great hands and very good route-running ability. He is a big-time playmaker that can stretch defenses as well as play in the slot. Iowa CB Shaun Prater has been one of the more impressive players this week showing that despite a lack of size and speed, he has good technique and fundamentals and has displayed good cover skills. He could fit in nicely as a nickel corner at the next level and has really helped his draft stock this week. USC DT DaJohn Harris has really emerged this week and has shown that he can be a solid run-stopper and an effective pass-rusher from the interior. He has a good first step off the snap and can generate excellent leverage against opposing offensive linemen. He has a ton of upside and should move up draft boards. Finally Miami-Ohio’s OG Brandon Brooks is an absolute specimen at 353lbs and his size alone had scouts buzzing. Brooks is extremely strong and dominated defensive linemen all week. He displayed excellent balance and quickness for a man his size and showed that he can be an anchor in pass protection or a bull-dozer in the run game. He really elevated his draft stock this week.

The Battle of Florida

The Battle Florida will include very few prospects if any that will even get drafted, but a number of these players will end up getting signed as undrafted free agents and land on practice squads. Names you will recognize include QB Stephen Garcia SCAR, QB Dominique Davis ECU, RB Zach Brown PITT, LB Ronnie Sneed KENT and CB Antonio Fenelus WISC. The teams will be coached by Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger.

 

*The Senior Bowl featuring the nation’s top Senior prospects will take place next Saturday with practices taking place all week. Updates next week.